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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  July 20, 2011 9:00am-12:00pm EDT

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the victims. it is they who have suffered the most and we must do right by them i want. set out the four vital questions i think we want to answer which in turn leads to four vital things that we must resolve as a house of commons never to let happen again. the first question is how we can secure a free and vibrant media completely unafraid to challenge authority but operating within the law. we must never again see this widespread law-breaking including the terrible crimes committed against people who have already suffered. now, we shouldn't assume these practices extend across all media. some of which has an excellent reputation but neither should we think this is isolated to just one institution. the second issue is how we can secure strong well-led independent yet accountable police forces that are able to pursue the powerful without fear or favor. yes, they must be able in a minute -- they must be able to work constructively with the media but never again should they be at risk of being
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corrupted by the media. >> he will know that operation wheating began just four days after the resignation of andy coulson. committee, therefore, confirm to the house that nobody at number 10, neither himself nor any of his officials nor his advisors had any advanced notice of the commencement of operational wheating? >> i can only speak for myself. i had no advanced notice of it and i know full well that andy coulson resignation in the timing of it was not connected to the timing of it. it was simply he couldn't go on doing his job with this swirl of allegations that was going on. to be fair to andy coulson, he recognized that the second chance that i gave him hasn't worked. and the third issue how we can bring about a situation which we've discussed a lot today which governing parties eager to hold onto power or indeed opposition parties yearning to win power can have a sensible,
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healthy relationship with media groups and owners without ducking the regulatory issues that need to be addressed. we must never again get to a situation where the issues of effective media regulation are left on the shelf year after year. the honorable lady. >> i thank the prime minister for giving way. in response to the prime minister's call for party leaders to join him in publishing the dealings with the media, the leader of the opposition heckled, no, you're the prime minister. does my right honorable friend think that the situation would be greatly helped for those who aspire to be the prime minister behave like one? >> i'm sorry the honorable lady didn't get in the first 138. that was an absolute cracker. [laughter] >> mr. speaker, we have seen the coziness with the media is dearly a problem with the police but it may be a problem for other walks of life as well. this is a new point. let me just make this point briefly. how about ask the cabinet
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secretary to ask them to review the way contact between the media and their staff and other professional groups that work with their departments are regulated and recorded. we see there's a problem with the police and the media. we need, i think, to get ahead of there possibly being problems with other groups as well. the honorable lady. >> i thank the prime minister for giving way. given that today the prime minister has dismissed the evidence that was set out in the "new york times" on which the police decided to re-open the investigation into phone hacking, does he have confidence in their decision-making processes or does he think press reports should not be part of the police-making investigations? >> everything that's published should be brought to my attention. everything that's published can be brought to the police's attention. the point i was simply making is that if i had been given evidence that andy coulson knew about hacking. i wouldn't have hired him. if he knew evidence about hacking i would have fired him. i can't put it any further. let me make some progress because -- let me -- let me discuss the fourth and final challenge and then i'll give
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way. the fourth and final challenge is how we address the vexed issue of media power. we need competition policy properly enforced. we need a sensible look at the relevance of plurality and cross-media ownership and above all we need to ensure that no one voice, not news corporation not the bbc becomes too powerful. i think we need to be frank the left overpowers the murdoch and the left on the bbc and never again should we let a media group get too powerful. i give way to the honorable gentleman. >> i'm grateful to the prime minister. john yates wrote to me last week as previous home secretary a private and confidential letter that said -- [laughter] >> let's learn about this private and confidential letter. mr. allen johnson. >> there's a certain paradox there, mr. speaker. he said the reason that a new
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investigation has been commenced and the situation has subsequently changed so markedly, that since the advice given to me as home secretary, is that in january 2011 news international began to cooperate properly with the police. it is now evident that this was not the case beforehand. january, 2011, was when andy coulson resigned. does the prime minister just think that's a coincidence? >> the point i was going to make which is important is the re-opening of the investigation in my understanding was in response to new information from news international wasn't in response to the april article. the point about andy coulson's resignation which had been under discussion for some weeks was that he just recognized he couldn't go on doing his job. it was not to the best of my memory connected with any single event. it was literally -- i can't go on being an effective communications spokesman. i have to resign. let's just make sure we do it in an orderly way. i know it doesn't fit the many conspiracy theories that
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honorable members have tried to produced but i'm going to make some progress but that's actually what happened. let me make three suggestions on media plurality and power. one, it is right there are good and proper legal processes for considering media merger but we should ask whether politicians should be subtracted from all together. there's right there's a plurality test but we should ask whether that test should be ongoing rather than just considering at the time of takeover and third while plurality is difficult to measure especially in the modern internet age we shouldn't rule out the idea of limits and i think it's right that the inquiry should look at this issue. and mr. speaker, it is -- okay. i'll give way to my honorable friend. >> i think what the prime minister has said is extremely interesting and important on plurality. and will have a bearing on the future structure. does the prime minister also agree, though, that we need to think carefully before tearing up the main provisions of the 2003 enterprise act which keeps ministers out of decisions on takeovers and mergers? >> i certainly agree with that. indeed, i think there may be a
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case, as i've said, when it comes to media mergers of trying to further remove politicians because of all the issues that have been raised so many times today, it might be one way of putting all of this beyond reproach. let me make this progress on this -- i will gave way to the honorable gentleman in a moment. let me make some progress. mr. speaker, it may sound decisive to talk about never letting these things happen again as i've done, but it is, let's be frank, more difficult to deliver that outcome. and i think in this house we need to recognize some home truths about these subjects we're discussing. first, none of these questions, for instance, about media inference and power are not new questions. there's been a debate of undue decisions. ironically with the newspapers declining and the internet booming it should be less of a problem. and the inquiry can help jolt us politicians into action and that is no bad thing. i give way to the honorable gentleman. >> i'm very grateful to the honorable gentleman and sue acres who is now in charge of
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the investigators say what broke the logjam of the cover-up was effectively the civil cases taken by the individuals and forcing disclosure from news international. but part of the problem and one of the reasons that we've all failed in this over the last 20 years is because news international and metropolitan police officers lied to parliament, directly lied to parliament and the select committees were either unable to or didn't do anything about it. one of the problems with the levins levinson situation is that he not be able to consider whether parliament was lied to. the only people will decide that is us. will he make sure there's a point in which we make that decision as a house? >> i think the honorable gentleman is making an important point and the way he makes it and the fact recognizing this is a 20-year issue where politicians of all party have not stepped up to the mark is wholly to his credit. what i want to do to take away this issue about parliamentary privilege and bill of rights and
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give a response because i don't want this inquiry to be prevented in any way from getting to the truth and i think our constituents wouldn't understand if there were some process. however, important historically it might be that stops that from happening. let me just make some progress. second, none of these questions is restricted to britain. right across the world you got a problem that police forces are accountable to government and yet independent from them. and we must never compromise operational independence and this goes to some of the questions i was asked earlier. we musn't move to a system where you have politicians stepping in to say, why haven't you rerun this investigation. why haven't you arrested that person? we ought to think for a moment where that would lead. but i think it does make it all the more important that police leadership is strong and they are called to account when they fail. and that's why we're introducing directly elected police and crime commissioners to bring that kind of accountability to policing. i give way to the secretary chairman. >> i'm grateful to my right honorable friend and i'm grateful to the point he just
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made does he know not agree that he needs to be clear beyond a doubt, that it should not begin or indeed should begin. >> you're absolutely right. we must maintain operational independence. the point about the police commissioners is calling the police to account for the work that they do but i think the operation independence point is extremely important. let me make progress and i'll give way to the honorable lady. mr. speaker, the relationship between the police and the media is a problem in the world over and we have to be ask and honorable members have to be asked why ours seems to be quite so cozy so leaky and so potentially compromised? again there's nothing similarly -- similarly nothing peculiar to britain about the potentially unhealthy relationship developing between media proprietors and politicians and that that leads to my third point about trying to turn these noble sentiments of never again into action. none of this is easy. and i think a point that musn't be lost in this debate is to overregulate the media could have profoundly detrimental effects on our country and our
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society. we must not miss in the frenzy about the dreadfulness of hacking this point -- without a public interest defense the so-called cold facts that uncovered jonathan akin's wrongdoing that might not have emerged are we going to series argue in this house that the expenses scandal should not have come to light because it could have involved some data that was obtained illegally? so we need to step very, very carefully into this area. i've got a feeling there will be a question about the bill of rights that i won't be able to answer but i'm going to try to answer anyway. [laughter] >> i'm glad to say it's not about the bill of rights. [laughter] >> it's about the terms of reference that's now in the library and i simply wanted to ask the prime minister if he would be good enough with reference to the recommendations that could be made by the judge-led inquiry with reference to the question of media policy regulation across media ownership. is this intended to cover the whole media in a way that would
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ensure that the kind of standards that are expected of the media in relation to future regulation would be included in the judge-led recommendations? >> i think the terms of reference are pretty clear. the point about the cross-media ownership, that is not about conduct. that is about market -- not just market power but power of voice. what you're trying to do with cross-media ownership is measure if one organization has a very powerful television station, a number of newspapers perhaps some radio stations, maybe some internet sites -- how do you aglomrate and try to measure its power. i used to work for itv in competition with bskyb and the bbc. it's a very difficult thing to do but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. in terms of the in terms of reference that's what the cross-media ownership part is about but clearly it's looking at media regulation more broadly specifically of the printed press but it can go further. i'm going to make some progress and i'll give way a couple more times before i close. so mr. speaker, the question is, given the difficulties i've
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mentioned, how do we maximize the chance of making a clean break with the past? and i want to just set out some very clear lessons. first we've got to try to proceed on a cross-party basis; otherwise, we'll have each party trooping off to media organizations and promising the lowest common denominator. if i say independent regulation there's a danger someone else will say self-regulation and so on. we could end up constantly competing with each other in a kind of regulatory arbitrage over who can be the softest and most appealing to newspapers, television stations and their owners. and i don't think we should pretend this is simply about tabloids or even simply about newspapers. i'm a huge supporter of the bbc and the licensed fee but, frankly, i think there did come a time in recent years when the income of the bbc was so stripping that of independent television there was a danger of bbc news becoming rather dominant so there are dangers right across the piece here so the offer to work together with all parties on this agenda is indeed a genuine one. i give way to the honorable
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gentleman. >> critical as i may be off the press and i waive a bias in many ways i'm totally against gabbing and that i'm sure is the view of most of my right honorable friends but would the prime minister accept that the self-regulation has been totally inadequate from day one? it's been a total farce and, therefore, if we're going to have self-regulation, which i hope will be effective but it has to be more effective than it's been. >> i do agree with the honorable gentleman it has failed because it didn't properly respond to all these warnings. that's why i choose to talk about independent regulation. i don't want to see statutory regulation the heavy hand of the state. we've got to try and find a way to make sure the press is regulated in a way that is independent from them but not by the state and the government. i think it is -- i'll make some progress and i'll come back to the honorable gentleman. so the second key to success in translating all of this into action, i believe, is restraint.
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the media will see politicians agreeing with each other about the need for regulation and for plurality and the rest of it and they will fear a stitchup and they're already talking about one. politicians need to show some restraint in what they say and do about the media. there are many in this house i know who have been victims of the media that has been prepared to break the law or behave in a bullying fashion but we must not forget that this scandal, like so many others, whether we're talking about expenses or the fifa scandal which i were exercised about they were uncovered by the fullest degree by media, by newspapers and not regulators and let's not forget that. the balance we must strike is land an aggressive and independent media however much that sometimes might frustrate us while halting the abuses that all decent people find unacceptable. the third key to success is that while we can't commit in advance to legislate simply for whatever comes out of this judicial inquiry we should, i believe, invest all possible faith in this inquiry 'cause frankly it
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is our best chance of making a fresh start. >> i thank my honorable friend for giving way. given what he just said about the bbc is he aware the bbc accounts for 70% of the tv knows and on the internet the bbc has ten times as much market share as sky. is an answer to democratize the license fee and to give license fee payers a vote and structure on the bbc? >> well, it's an interesting idea that he can put to this inquiry. i think the key is -- i'm biased as i worked in itv for many years. you do need strong independent television to give people a choice of newss. and i made many mistakes in my life and i think one of them was agreeing briefly that it was a good idea to move the news at 10:00. i think it was a very bad decision and i think a properly plurality in news is very important. let me just make a bit more progress. so in anticipation of what might come out of the judicial inquiry, we are planning a communications bill this parliament which can take into
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account the recommendations of the inquiry. finally, painful as it can sometimes be, there's no doubt in my mind that when it comes to the best way to achieve the more healthy relationship between politicians in the media, transparency is the absolute key. clearly, that's vital in contact between political leaders and media groups. i've set out as i've said today all my contacts since the election. i look forward to others doing the same. i'm sure that tony blair, the last prime minister will soon follow suit for their time in office. i give way to the honorable lady. >> i thank the prime minister for giving way returning to the issue of operational independence of the police he rightly emphasized that important principle -- the politicians cannot tell the police who to investigate and what to pursue but that cuts beta ways. what message does he think the mayor of london was sending out when he said in the same weeks that john yates was scoping his inquiry and just days after john yates sent his email to the prime minister's chief of staff that any inquiry and any
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allegations were codswalloped and not worthy of investigation. >> what i'd make it's quite clear that police have operational independence because they have pursued without fear or favor these issues and they have arrested everyone they thought is necessary to arrest. and what's interesting is that i think that operational independence is so embedded into the psyche of british policing that when you have -- whether it's the mayor of london or whether you have police commissioners i don't think it will interfere with that. finally, mr. speaker, in this debate, let us not lose sight of the big picture. the people who send us here want some pretty straightforward things. they want their media free and punchy but they want them within the law. they want their police independent and strong but honest and incorruptible. and they want their politicians to sort out a mess that has socked their faith in the key institutions in our country. we should be clear today that we
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will not let them down. >> here, here! >> order, the question is this house have considered the matter of public confidence in the media and the police. mr. ed miliband. >> mr. speaker, i welcome this debate and i think in starting this debate all of us should remember what brings us here. because parliament would not have been recalled today if it had not been for the revelations by the hacking of millie doweler's phone. that revelation shocked our country and turned something that had seemed to be about the lives of politicians, footballers and celebrities into something very different. about the lives of others who never sought the public eye. and it is the courage of bob and sally doweler and milly's sister jemma that has been the spur for much that has happened in the last fortnight and i pay tribute for them in their courage in speaking out on these issues. mr. speaker people's anger about
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what has happened in phone hacking has been real. but some people will no doubt ask and indeed we heard it a bit in the statement today why when we have so many other problems facing the country, the economy, the nhs, defense all of those issues the house of commons is debating this issue in particular. and it is true that this issue does not directly concern our jobs and living standards but it does concern something incredibly important on which all else depends. and that is the fabric of our country. we do not want to live in a country where the depraved deletion of the voicemails of a dead teenager is seen as acceptable, in which the police's failure to investigate it is seen as just the way things are. and in which politicians failure to tackle it is seen as a way things are. of course. >> i don't think there's one person in this country, maybe a handful, who would think as you described it -- sorry,
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mr. speaker, as the honorable gentleman described it the depraved deletion of a voicemail is acceptable. what people don't find or wondering if politicians find acceptable is not being honest and this is across the house about dealings we have had between politicians and press and police. and that is why we are here today. i don't want him to think that anybody in this house would think those deletions is acceptable. >> i agree completely with the honorable lady and what she says and there's issues as the prime minister said for the press, for the police and indeed for the politicians. mr. speaker, this debate actually goes to the heart of the country we should aspire to be. it goes to the integrity, responsibility and accountability of some of our established institutions. and at the heart of this debate is how these institutions and the people at the ahead of them act. can the press -- i'll give way in a moment. can the press be trusted in the words of the pccc's first chairman lord mcgregor not to dabble their fingers in the
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staff of other people's souls. can the police be trusted to investigate wrongdoing without fear or favor? and as i said as we politicians and as the honorable lady be trusted to speak out when wrong is down. for the doweler family -- i will give way in a moment. for the doweler family, let's be honest. until just two weeks ago the honest to all these questions was no. that it was should shame our country so, no, mr. speaker when i read in the newspapers that this is the angst or obsession of a few people in westminster, i say it isn't because it goes to the kind of country we are. and it goes directly to something else as well. we hear a lot and we talk about on both sides of the house about the responsibilities of without power in britain. those on benefits, for example, and we all use the language, cheats, abusers, languages like that. you even saw that language in the "news of the world" and some are true in the respect of a minority. but how much let's be honest
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about this do we talk about the responsibilities of the powerful? and what message -- i'll make a bit of progress and what message does it send to the rest of our society when the established institutions of our country behave without responsibility? it sends the message that anything goes because no one seems to care about right and wrong. and i will give way in a moment and let me say some further progress and this debate goes to one final thing, mr. speaker, just like expenses undermined the reputation of the good, decent majority on all sides of this house, so too this scandal. the vast majority of good, upstanding police officers that all our communities rely on, the vast majority of decent journalists doing their job necessary as the prime minister said in his remarks for a free and fair society. so it is in their interest, too, that we sort this out. so, mr. speaker, when people say this doesn't matter, they're
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actually not just saying, let's talk about something else. they're saying something far more serious. that cynicism about the country we live in is almost inevitable. that nothing can be done. and i'm sure i speak for -- i will give way in a second. and i say to members on all sides of this house and i'm sure i speak for members across this house that if we fall prey to this, nobody will trust established institutions in this country or indeed anyone else. i give way to the honorable gentleman. >> the labour party's director of communications tom baldwin is accused of having been involved in the unlawful accessing of banking records to establish details of payments made. can i ask the leader of the opposition who aspires himself to lead the country what checks did he make and what assurances were given to him about mr. baldwin's conduct before he appointed him to that high
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office? >> mr. speaker, i take all allegations against members of my staff seriously, which is what -- which is why i checked these out with the "times" newspaper who specifically confirmed -- who specifically confirmed what the gentleman he refers to says which is that he did not commission illegal investigations. and i have to say to the prime minister who's from the front bench i think we should rely on some of those people because tom baldwin's line manager was the current education secretary for much of the time in question. not -- not -- not -- not in his place today. for much of the time that the investigation was going on to lord ashcroft, remember him. it was the honorable -- it was the honorable gentleman -- the honorable gentleman now the education secretary and i can see the prime minister is smiling, who was his line manager. and i have to say -- i have to say, mr. speaker because this has been raised a number of times in this debate, remember
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lord ashcroft and his assurances. remember his assurances about his tax status. assurances relied on by the current foreign secretary, by the current prime minister. i have to say to conservative members, if i were them i would shut up about the allegations for lord ashcroft. who's next, mr. speaker? who's next, i'll give way to the honorable gentleman. >> i've been listening to the passion with which he's been making his case. but if that passion for reform really is there, committee tell me why the last government between 2002 and 2007 did nothing about the former complaints of the commission. >> mr. speaker, the honorable gentleman is completely right. we didn't do enough and we should have done. and i'm absolutely clear. let me just make -- let me -- if the gentleman just listens i will give way to him eventually. look, let me make this point, of course this was a collective failure on all sides of this house and i take -- i don't know why they say ah.
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i take responsibility for this. of course that's right. now, i have to say -- i have to say on this, part of what is required is all of us to account for our actions absolutely right. if they -- if they just give me a moment and i'm absolutely right but i do say, for example, my right honorable friend the home secretary, the former home secretary you perhaps talk about this in the debate did seek to re-open the inquiries both with the police and with the independent police commission and it didn't happen but, look, no one in this house can say that we shouldn't have spoken out earlier. now, who's -- who's next. yes. he seems very excited so i'll take his intervention. >> i'm grateful for the leader of the opposition for giving a way and he started out a statesman house and he had the attention of the house. as the prime minister -- as the prime minister had done earlier, struck a tone of statesman like cross-nonpartisanship.
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we as the prime minister did earlier acknowledge the sins of his party as ours in the last 20 years and give an apology on the excesses of media manipulation on that side of the house. >> he obviously wasn't listening to my speech, mr. speaker. mr. speaker, we need to change -- [inaudible] >> i will give way to my distinguished and honorable friend the chairman of the -- >> can i take him back to the beginning of his speech when he talked about faith and institutions. does he not agree that credit should be given to the metropolitan police commissioner who felt the issue of leadership was at stake in the metropolitan police? and, therefore, he resigned so that that service could move on? surely he should be given credit for what he did. >> i agree and paul stevenson enacted with great honor in this matter. and i'm sure that is recognized on all sides of the house. mr. speaker i want to just now turn to the -- my remarks about the -- i will -- let me make a bit of progress and then i may give way to the honorable
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gentleman. we need to change our press, our police and our politics and i first want to talk about the press because the question we must all ask as we debate this is not just who acted illegally and when. that is properly a matter of the police investigation. they must get to the bottom of what happened. the judge-led inquiry led by lord levinson must do its work. but we can't just ask why it happened. we also need to ask why this culture was so widespread. and in my view, the answer is actually relatively simple. because some of the institutions -- if he just listens to my speech a bit longer. >> and right here we will wrap up our coverage of the british house of commons debate on the phone hacking investigation and a quick reminder that you can watch our coverage of this morning's house of commons debate on our website, u.s. senate is about to gavel in to start their day. general speeches for the first hour and then back to military construction and veterans affairs spending. this is the first of 12 spending bills that fund the federal
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government and related agencies that the senate has considered. an amendment vote on the measure is scheduled for noon eastern. and now to live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. -is there
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the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty god, author of liberty, to you we lift our hearts in prayer. long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light. protect us by your might, great god our king. give to our lawmakers the wisdom to know the role they must playn
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keeping freedom's holy light bright. as they seek to be responsible stewards of their calling, keep them from the paths that lead to ruin. may the words of their mouths ad the meditations of their heartse acceptable to you. we pray in your sacred name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of al legiance i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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the presiding officer: the clek will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., july 20, 2011. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable kirsten e. gillibrand, a senator from the state of new york, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: daniel k. inouye, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour. the majority will hold the first half, the republicans the final half. following that morning business the senate will resume consideration of the military construction appropriations bill. there will be a roll call vote at noon on that matter in relation to the vitter amendment. before the amendments pending we hope to complete action on this bill today. we'll notify senators when the votes will occur. madam president, there is a fundamental principle we have to focus on here in the senate, and i think we have focused on it,
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and that is we cannot default on our debt. we have 11 or 12 days until that crucial time comes. we have a number of plans that are being talked about here. we have a path forward here in the senate, we believe. there's the gang of six which reported some encouraging news yesterday. we have president obama's grand plan that has been talked about a lot. so now we return to the roots of what this country is all about, and that's our constitutional form of government. the founding fathers uniquely, when they finally figured out a way to do it under the constitution, are the breakthrough was the so-called grand compromise, when a member of the constitution convention from connecticut came up with the idea of a bicameral
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legislature. no one had ever thought about that before. to think that you would have a system of government with three branches of government -- executive, legislative and the -- i'm sorry. executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. but no one ever considered having anything other than a parliamentary form of government. but our founding fathers came up with a new idea, and that new idea was to have within the legislative branch of government two houses, one based strictly on population and one based on the same number of senators from each state. that took care of the big problem they had with new york, big, massive new york with a lot of area and lots of people; little, tiny rhode island, not much area and not many people. the reason i say we return to our roots is we're not going to be able to do the fundamental principle that guides this country in the last 11 or 12
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days *f legislative session. and that is we cannot default on our debt. we in the senate, we can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if they're not accepted in the house, we can't extend the debt ceiling, which we have to do. so now we await the house of representatives with our bicameral form of ledges slay taourbgs that's what we -- with our bicameral form of legislature, that's what we must do. they know we know time is of the essence. we know all the partisanship shown in the house of representatives, including thaeurl spending so much time on -- including their spending so much time on this plan they call cap, cut and balance, which others call cap, cut and destroy medicare and all the other names this program has been given. we have to get now where we work
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on something that is really important and have an opportunity to pass. knew, the republican leadership knew it didn't stand a chance over here. that's why it's the most important issue we're facing, that is not defaulting our debt, they have got to become real and sending something to us or we'll send something to them, we'll agree in the interim on something that will extend the debt. as most know, i've worked really hard to try to figure out a way through all this. others have worked as hard as i have. right now i'm at a point where i'm saying we need to hear from the house of representatives. we have a plan to go forward over here. but until we hear from the house of representatives, really our, all of our work here would be for naught. so i await the word from the speaker. he indicated that he thought it would be appropriate that they get this other thing out of the
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way first. i look forward to our working on this. i had a terrific conversation with the president last night. he understands the issue as well as anyone in the country, if not more so because the buck really does stop at his desk. i tell all senators to be calm and deliberate and i'm confident we'll be able to work our way through this very difficult time. but we are at the stage depending on the house of representatives to help us find a path forward. i ask unanimous consent that when the senate receives h.r. 2560 it be ordered to be read twice and placed on the calendar. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: would the chair announce morning business please. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes
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each, with the time equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees, with the majority controlling the first half and the republicans controlling the final half. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. officer without objection. mrs. murray: mr. president, our nation is less than two weeks away from a potentially facing what federal reserve chairman ben bernanke has been called a calamitous outcome. unless we act, the united states of america for the first time in history may face the prospect of defaulting on our loans and not make good on the promises we've made to millions of americans. madam president, this outcome is unthinkable, and we should be doing everything we can to avoid it, which is why i am so disappointed that instead of working with us to tackle this
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issue seriously, the republican-led house of representatives has chosen to put politics ahead of everything else and has sent us a bill they call the cut, cap, and balance. well, first of all, madam president, this is a colossal waste of time at a critical time for our country. the republican house send us a bill that may appeal to their extreme base but now the american people are looking for results, not more rhetoric. "the washington post" reported that this bill as being -- quote -- "a doomed plan." even conservative columnist david brooks said in his column yesterday that this bill has -- quote -- "zero chance of becoming law" understand that it's -- quote -- "likely republicans will come to regret this missed opportunity." but second of all, madam president, this bill is not just a waste of time, it is truly terrible policy. it would essentially enshrine into our constitution the failed
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republican policies that got us into this crisis in the first place. it would bind our hands from responding to national emergencies that require quick and decisive action, like another terrorist attack or hurricane katrina, payments for families who lost their homes in tornadoes or an infrastructure breach in states across the country, like the howard hanson dam in my state. it would force us to stay "no" to families across the country who need some temporary support to help them get back on their feet and at the same time help them contribute back to our economic strength. their bill would have presented us from taking -- prevented us from taking any action after wall street brought us to the brink of coul larynx which would have led to thousands of more job losses across the country at a time when we could least afford it, and it would not allow congress, as representatives of the american people, to make the investments
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we need to make to continue innovating and educating and leading in this 21st century economy. madam president, republicans may be talking about the virtues of cutting and capping and balancing now, by their actions and the votes speak a lot louder. the republican budget that this same house of representatives just passed, a budget that slashes and burns away at the fabric of our society, that cuts off middle-class and working families from the health care and nutrition and education and housing support they count on, even that republican budget wouldn't meet the standards of cut, cap, and balance. and, madam president, you know who else's budgets wouldn't meet those standards? ronald reagan, george w. bush. it's truly unbelievable that they are playing these games with the clock ticking to a financial crisis. madam president, we don't need a so-called cut, cap, and balance
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bill to put in place sensible policies that work for american people. my republican colleagues may choose to ignore the fact these days, but we did some responsible cutting and balancing of our own here in america not that long ago, and we didn't need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs either. like many of them, i was here in 2000. i remember when president clinton left office we were on a course to completely pay down the $5.6 trillion debt by 2012. i remember the projections of surpluses. i remember some of my colleagues actually being worried that the large surpluses in years ahead could be a problem. and i remember the efforts by many of us to safeguard that funding for our seniors for our future and to pay down the debt. but i also remember what republicans chose to do with that surplus. they couldn't wait to get their hands on the nation's credit card. and when they did, after president bush took office, they
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spent lavishly. throughout the bush years and particularly in the bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, trillions of dollars in tax breaks went to the very wealthiest americans. there were capital gains tax rollbacks, chasm breaks designed to benefit corporate giants, and a new tax bracket that provided the very wealthiest americans the lowest tax rates they've enjoyed since world war i i. and those tax breaks were all unpaid for. all handed out to those who could most afford to pay. and all put on our nation's credit card. and then our country was led into two wars, neither of them paid for. but, madam president, now credit bill is you don't. now that awful those tax cuts and spending that be been sent out need to be reckoned with. just as our nation is start starting to recover from the
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wall street crisis that devastated so many of our families. and now republicans are playing political games with our future. madam president, this is serious. if we can't come to an agreement by august 2, the consequences will be dire. a few weeks ago the bipartisan policy center put out a report authored by a former bush treasury official about what would happen if this congress fails to act and the administration was forced to make desperate spending decisions in august. and the scenarios were worse than grim. potentially at risk wit are the benefits we owe our veterans, loans for struggle small businesses, food stamps for people trying to buy grows rirks social security checks for our seniors, unemployment benefits for millions of workers who are desperately trying to get a job today, and even active duty pay for our military. these risks are unacceptable. senior citizens in this country are worried that social security
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checks that they depend on and that they've been promised may not be coming in the mail in just two weeks. and they read the use i the newr that preens are on the floor playing games. mothers and fathers are trying to figure out what to do and we're playing games with another bill that's not going to pass. they turn on the television and see the house of representatives passing a bill that has no chance here in the senate and isn't an answer to what we need to do. madam president, this is an embarrassment. the american people deserve better. democrats on this side have come to the table again and again and again with reasonable proposals to come to an agreement. we've come to the middle. we have offered up serious and deep cuts in federal spending. but again and again those on the other side have said, "no," "no," "no." so far they refuse to make any deal that doesn't protect tax
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cuts and loopholes for oil companies and private jets and millionaires and billionaires. as we see today, they seal to be more focused on offering up red meat to their base than actual solutions for the american people. and they are more focused on negotiating tensions within their own party now than on working with us to get results. so, madam president, 13 days to go. i urge the house republicans to get serious about this. this so-called cut, cap, and balance bill is bad policy. it's the kind of silly politics that americans really are sick of today. it's a waste of time, as our country is coming to a countdown fast. madam president, if all it took were slogans and gimmicks to solve this crisis, the house republicans would have this covered. that's not the case. the clock is ticking for us in this country and for families across america. we're going to keep working to solve this crisis. we are ready to compromise.
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we need a partner at the table that is serious about this, as the american people are. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. mr. nelson: madam president? the presiding officer: the the senator from nebraska. mr. nelson: madam president, i rise today to speak about legislation that i i believe is very important legislation for the future of health care, fairness -- of health care fairness in our country. yesterday i introduced the savings through eligibility fairness act, which addresses medicaid fairness and debt reduction. my friend and colleague from wyoming, the ranking member of the "help" committee, senator enzi, has a shared interest in this issue, and i commend and appreciate his offering of similar legislation and offer to continue to work with him to deal and find solutions to this issue. medicaid is an important safety net for nebraska's and our country's most vulnerable
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families, and i'm committed to making sure that they'll continue receiving health care coverage. but, unfortunately, the health care reform law passed last year would inadder have at any timely make some middle-class americans eligible for medicaid who should not be eligible for medicaid. my bill changes the law to ensure that only the neediest nebraskans and americans would qualify for the medicaid expansion and health exchange subsidies created by the health reform law. this simple, reasonable change has a significant impact. it saves $13 billion. let me repeat that. $13 billion worth of savings. and my bill commits that $13 billion will be used to pay down the national deficit. and as washington debates various debt of this reduction plans, my bill offers one concrete, commonsense way to reduce the national debt by $13 billion.
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we hear a lot of different ideas but not with the same level of concrete commonsense approach. i regularly hear from nebraskans who are already benefiting from the new health care law. children remaining on their parents' coverage, seniors closing the doughnut hole, young people no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. those are nebraskans who are already benefiting from the new health care law. so with improvements like the one i propose, it will save money and help reduce the national debt while still protecting health care for nebraska and american families. in the current debate of how best to reduce spend and reduce our nation's deficit, i believe congress should start with this commonsense approach. it'll maintain sensible eligibility requirements for the medicaid expansion and health exchange subsidies rather than focusing on shifting costs to
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states, providers, and the people who rely on this most important program. right now most states do include social security income when deciding who believe eligible for medicaid -- when deciding who will be eligible for medicaid. so my legislation establishes eligibility for both medicaid and health exchange subsidies. keeping the same definition consistently will ensure that medicaid will not start down the path of covering middle-income families, which has never been the purpose of this program, nor should it be. rather, medicaid is part of a critical safety net for the most vulnerable and the most in need. let me point out an important fact. those who would no longer qualify for the medicaid expansion would still be eligible to receive health insurance coverage through the state health insurance exchange and subsidies where appropriate. so they will receive the health
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care they need. as a result, the congressional budget office has estimated that the savings through eligibility fairness act will have a negligible effect on the total number of individuals projected to be insured as a result of health care reform. so let me conclude and summarize by saying that medicaid is an important health safety net for nebraskans -- nebraska's most vulnerable citizens and america's most vulnerable citizens, and i'm committed to preserving this program for more than 200,000 nebraskans out of 1.85 million, who include children, seniors, pregnant mothers, and the disabled. i'm committed to maintaining this coverage for these nebraskans in this fashion. madam president, thank you for this opportunity, and i yield the floor.
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i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. a senator: i ask for floor privileges for alexa damon wolf. the presiding officer: we're in quorum call. mr. merkley: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: i ask unanimous consent that alexa damon wolf be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: i ask to speak in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: this weekend i was out in oregon holding town halls. and at each gathering citizens asked me how important is august 2, and are the members of the senate going to be able to come together and make sure that our nation doesn't default? and so i rise today to address
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that question: how important is august 2? and how important is it that we work together to avoid a default? indeed it would be historic, for the first time in the history of the u.s. that we refuse to pay our bills. now, some of my colleagues have called into question the significance of such an event. one of my colleagues said -- and i quote -- "i'm a little bit cynical about the scare mongering and putting america's back up against an august 2 deadline to get an increase in the american credit card." i've heard some of my colleagues talk about the situation in which they view paying the interest on treasury bills as equivalent to a family holding a mortgage. and the fact that the united states has other bills to pay, such as checks to write to our veterans and to our senior citizens, as more equivalent to
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utility bills. and that somehow as long as you keep paying on your mortgage, you can quit making your payments on your utilities. that is on other payments for debts we've already, and obligations we've already incurred. and i want to clarify that this is a deeply flawed analogy because we don't have our national debt locked in for 30 years in a situation where we don't have to worry about changes in interest on it as long as we keep making our payments. indeed every week there is an option of treasury bonds. and, thus, even if we make our payments on our interest, if we aren't making our payments on other obligations of the united states, that translates into a sense that we're in trouble and swraoel to -- we'll have to pay higher interest on the treasury side.
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it's like you knew you had to pay your family mortgage and if you didn't pay your utilities you wouldn't be able to get that financed or at least you'd have to pay a higher interest. and so the consequences are substantial because this would be an increase in interest that is like a tax on all americans, on all small businesses, on the entire economy, and a tax that buys us nothing of value. a representative from the house has said, referring to the possibility of losing our aaa rating -- quote -- "i'm not as worried as moody's or anyone else that this economy gets worse, and i don't take the premise that we're going to default. and, quite frankly, the belief that we can take and ignore payments on our debts and not have it have serious consequences is way off the
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mark. " if we do not hit august 2 with action, if we do not get our act in order by then, in august, we will fail to make payments and there will be a severe impact on our national economy. no matter how we shuffle around the money, we will not have enough money to pay some of our obligations, which it be our interest payments, our social security checks, our checks to our veterans, our military checks; you name it and our credit rating will be downgraded. already the ratings agencies have stated as much, and senator schumer and others have shown very effectively that there is no way for the revenues we have coming in to cover the full set of obligations we have incurred. so this cavalier attitude about the consequences of default ignores the fact that default will have an immediate impact on
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interest rates and could send our economy into quite a tailspin. and that's the last thing that families need. higher costs in the short term and perhaps severe loss of jobs and a much deeper recession. that would put us in a hole deeper than the one we have now. and it would not facilitate our path to a solution. it would hinder our path to fiscal responsibility. i thought i would note that the impact on families is fairly direct. most major items a family buys are bought with loans that are based on treasury rates. a three-quarters of a percentage rate increase on the interest rate for treasury bonds which j.p. morgan has estimated would be the minimum it would rise in default translates to serious cost for a family. let me be clear, this is the best-case scenario. the consequences could be much
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more severe. so let us start first with the consequences on a mortgage. the average family takes out a loan of $172,000 to buy their home with a monthly mortgage payment of around $1,000. the expected increase in treasury bond rates would translate into higher rates for mortgages and it would cost the average family about $1,000 more per year. now, this would be on new loans. but families who have adjustable rate mortgages based on the treasury rates would also be impacted. let's take a second look at credit cards. families use credit to pay for everything from food to gas, to prescription drugs, and especially true during hard times such as we are in now. the median balance for an
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american with credit card debt was $3,300 in 2009. and that means the average family with credit card debt will pay, well, about $250 more per year. and then let's turn to some of the other family expenses. analysts estimate that a technical default on bonds will also diminish the trading value of the dollar, maybe cause it go to fall 5% or so against competing currencies. this has a direct impact, and we'd feel it most directly in the cost of oil. now i have been arguing that we need a plan to end our dependence on overseas oil. we send $1 billion a day out of our country and that creates jobs overseas rather than creating jobs here at home. but ending our dependence on overseas oil can't happen overnight, so all the costs that
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have additional oil at a different exchange rate would be felt in the family budget. indeed, if there was a decline of 5%, the impact would be felt on food. it takes a lot of energy to power agriculture. the estimate is about $318 more per year for the family. that's a j.p. morgan estimate. similarly, on utilities, we've all heard horror stories throughout the recession of families having to decide which utilities to pay first. mothers and fathers sitting around the kitchen table thinking can we get by without electricity or should we postpone the water payment or perhaps the natural gas payment? well, default would make the situation worse for families, adding that 5% estimate from j.p. morgan, about $182 more per year. and remember, this is the best-case analysis.
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gasoline at the pump similarly affected. taking a look at the average consumption per year, families pay about $100 more per year on gas. again, best case. and then if we total these up, we can see that the overall costs for a middle-class family would be on the order of about $1,850. round it off, $2,000 a family. now, i don't know about the block that you live on, but the block i live on, $2,000 is a real blow for working families. and that's just the beginning of this story, because as it unfolds, the impact on the dollar and the shock waves that would flow would very likely send us into a double-dip recession. now, it would have an impact as
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of august 2 or 3rd on social security or medicare payments. a bipartisan policy committee has taken a look at it and backing up senator schumer's statements, there wouldn't be enough revenue coming in to cover all of our obligations. the stock market would probably take a hit. 401(k)s could be severely impacted. other savings severely impacted. we all know how that felt in late 2008 and 2009 when families often saw their life savings wiped out in a few short weeks. but the bigger issue here is jobs. perhaps more than 500,000 jobs could be lost. this is an analysis from the third way. their estimate is 640,000 jobs. now, oregon has about 1% of the
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nation's population, so this would translate into about 6,000 to 7,000 jobs in my home state. we would love to have an increase of 6,000 to 7,000 jobs in oregon, and we would hate to see a loss of 6,000 to 7,000 jobs. and i know that would extend throughout our nation; that we need more jobs, not fewer jobs. and then, in addition, this situation will have an impact on our debt. and contrary to what some of my colleagues have said, it will make the situation worse, not better. and that is because the interest payments on the debt go up, $1.3 trillion additional in new debt. is that really the direction we want to go? is that really good stewardship
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of the economy, to pose a situation in which social security checks phao*eubg might be halted -- might be halted and veterans might go to the mailbox and find it empty, that t bills will have to be missed, put people in more direct harm's way in terms of keeping their house payments up and avoid foreclosure, in a situation where we already face a tsunami of foreclosures throughout this country. at a minimum, the american family impacted by higher costs in their homes, their credit cards, their essential goods, food, gas, utilities, and then the significant possibility of hundreds of thousands of americans losing jobs and additional debt, not less. so, this is important. it is important that we come together and have a sound deal so that we avoid this situation. this isn't about incurring new
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spending. this is about paying the bills on the spending decisions that were made in the past. i disagreed with a lot of those spending decisions. i disagree that medicare part-d should have been enacted without a way to pay for it. i disagree that there were giveaways for the best off in america, for the wealthy and well connected when we couldn't afford it which reversed a surplus into a deficit in this country. i disagree with a strategy where we're spending $100 billion to $120 billion in afghanistan in a strategy of nation building that is not the best use of our national security, not the best use of our soldiers who are there to fight for our national security, but those are decisions that were made in the past. and we must pay the bill on those decisions even when i disagreed with them. and then we need to put together a plan that takes on our deficit and our debt, and that plan has
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to put all of the options on the table. some of my colleagues across the aisle, they said, well, we want to protect the tax spending programs where we've tucked in tax provisions for the wealthy and the well connected. we want to defend those. we don't want to touch those for the best-off americans. but we want to cut the programs for working americans. that is unacceptable. we have seen enormous increase in the disparity between the wages and welfare of our citizens in general and the best-off becoming much, much wealthier proportionately. we can't continue to say that we're going to protect the well-connected while attacking working families. that's not the america we want to build. we want to build an america where families can thrive, provide a great foundation that are their children to also thrive, and that means that all policies have to be on the table, all spending programs, whether the tax bills or
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appropriations bills have to be on the table. and we have to weigh them one against the other to say, which is most important in creating a stronger economy? which is more valuable in strengthening the financial foundations of our families? that is the process we must go through, and that is the process that will put us back on track. but let us not doubt for a moment that when the citizens of my state come to a town hall and say, how important is it that we get this figured out by august 2, that the answer is "very important." when they ask, will it hurt us if we fail? the answer is, "yes, it will hurt us. we will be shooting ourselves, maybe i say, in the foot, maybe worse. this is a serious issue. we must come together not as democrats and republicans uke at
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as citizens working together for the best of the united states of america. thank you, mada mr. president, , mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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objection. we're in a quorum call. i'm sorry. quorum call. a senator: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: mr. president, thank you very much. in my view, something significant happened yesterday in the house of representatives. i'm pleased with the outcome of the passage of cut, cap and balance. i think we have a serious responsibility here in the united states congress to see that we address the economic circumstances we find ourselves in, and certainly the way we do that is important. i'm one who believes that it would be irresponsible not to address the debt ceiling. but i also believe it would be irresponsible only to address
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the debt ceiling without adequately taking into account the economic circumstances we're in and the tremendous debt that our country faces. there is no way that we can continue down the path that we are on. and while it's easy for us to make accusations, the reality is this country through its congress and through various administrations have overspent year after year after year. the fact that 42 cents of every dollar that we spend is now borrowed tells us that we cannot continue down that path. one of my town hall meetings this weekend, this past weekend back in kansas, the suggestion was we're willing to take a cut in what benefits we get from government, but let's do this in a fair way and let's do an across-the-board reduction in federal spending. and the suggestion by the constituent was, well, maybe if we all just took 5% off of what we receive, we'd be fine. well, i appreciate that
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attitude, but it fails to recognize the magnitude of the problem. reducing federal spending by 5% across the board will not get us out of the financial circumstances that we're in, will not restore fiscal sanity to our nation. and so, while we are about between now and august 2 seeing what we can do to raise the debt ceiling, in my view, we have to come together with a plan that addresses the long-term financial condition of our federal government. i am a supporter of cut, cap and balance and was pleased by the broad support that legislation received in the house. it's my understanding that we will now consider that legislation here in the senate this week, but i already read the press reports and the political pundits who say that legislation is dead on arrival in the senate. well, i would encourage my colleagues not to reach that conclusion. it may be the one and only path we have to succeed in getting accomplished what we need to
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accomplish in the next two weeks. and it may be that this is one of the, if not the only one, very few measures that would pass the house of representatives. we have now received in the senate a message that says this is something that we are willing to do. and for a long time i've been told as a senator there is nothing that will pass the house of representatives that raises the debt ceiling, and yet we saw last night that wasn't the case. so let's not be so quick to say that the senate will not address and seriously consider and potentially pass legislation based upon cut, cap and balance. in some circles this, concept of cut, cap and balance is considered radical, extreme. cutting spending is not extreme. that's what every kansas family does when the budget gets too tight, when we've overspent, when the credit cards are maxed. we reduce our spending. and, you know, it is unlikely
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that we could go out and say i need a raise to solve our problems. our employers are not that sympathetic. we ought not be so quick to say we need a raise. we ought to say what can we find within government that we can reduce, that we can cut. the idea of capping is certainly not radical. for the last 60 years, our country has averaged 18% of the gross national product in spending by the federal government. in the last couple of years that average has increased to 24%, 25%. it would not be radical to move us back to the days in which we were living with 18%, which seems to me to be a significant percentage if we would go back to the days in which only 18% of our gross national product was spent by the federal government. and finally, balancing the budget that,'s not a radical idea. amending the united states constitution, in my view, ought to be done rarely and with great regard for this divinely inspired document. but the constitution allows for
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an amendment process, and in fact it's been utilized to solve many of our country's problems and challenges over the time of history. and it's not radical 49 states have provisions that require them to have a balanced budget in some form or another at the end of the year. and so amending the united states constitution to say we're not ever going to get back in the mess that we're in today certainly is worth pursuing. i think perhaps of the cut, cap and balance provisions, perhaps it's the constitutional amendment that's the most controversial among my colleagues. and i certainly would express an interest to work with others to find the right constitutional amendment, the right language and amendment to the united states constitution that met their concerns. so this cut, cap and balance seems to me to be the path forward, and the senate should pass a version of cut, cap and balance to not only allow the
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debt ceiling to be raised, but to allow the debt ceiling to be raised only if we become responsible stewards of american taxpayer dollars. i actually have a fourth component of cut, cap and balance. i would say it's cut, cap, balance and grow. the last time our fiscal house was in solvency, was solvent was back at the end of president clinton's administration. and in part, republicans and democrats couldn't get along well enough in those days to spend more money on big programs. there was legislation that was passed that supported in a bipartisan way by president clinton and republicans in congress to limit spending. so there was some spending restraint. but the reality is the last time we had our fiscal house in order and were spending less money than we were taking in was a time in which the economy was growing. if we really want to address the issue of balancing our budget, we should focus much more
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attention than we have on growing the economy, putting people to work and allowing as they work that the taxes will be collected. the greatest opportunity we have to improve people's lives is to create an environment in which jobs are created, in which employers feel comfortable in investing in the future and buying plant and equipment and putting people to work. and so while it's cut, cap and balance today, we need to make certain we don't forget, in my view, that fourth component: grow the economy. and in my view, that means a tax code that is certain and fair, that doesn't change, that is something that a businessperson, a family can rely upon, and it's also a regulatory environment that allows businesses to have the opportunity to grow their business. the most common conversation i have with a business owner in kansas walking through a manufacturing plant, some small business that manufactures a piece of agriculture equipment
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that's pretty common in our state. the most common conversation i have is, senator, what next is government going to do that puts me out of business? if that's the mind-set, how do we ever expect that businessperson to reach the conclusion that they have the faith and the future to invest in their plant and equipment and in hiring new employees? we need to make certain our financial institutions, particularly our community banks, are not hamstrung by significant regulations that discourage them from making loans and create uncertainty about the ability to do that. so a tax regulatory and access to credit environment that says now is the time to invest in america and to put people to work. so, mr. president, i'm here to urge my colleagues to seriously consider, not dismiss cut, cap and balance. and upon its passage, for us to immediately return to the progrowth agenda that allows for people to have the faith in -- t
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the future of their country is back and we return to an american that the next generation of americans can understand the american dream can still be lived. i thank the floor for consideration in speaking on the senate floor today and i yield back my time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i appreciate the good words of my colleague from kansas. he comes from a state where they understand that the role of the government should be limited. they understand the importance of living within your means, of not spending money that you don't have. and i suspect that the senator from kansas has had a long and distinguished career in public life, but before coming to washington, d.c. to serve in congress, also was a state legislator. my guess is that when he was a member of the state legislature in kansas that they had to balance their budget every year. i would ask my colleague, mr. president, if he could perhaps shed some light on what his state of kansas does year in
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and year out in order to get their budget balanced, to make sure that they're not spending more than they take in. i think that's, as he pointed out, something that most families in kansas, i would say most families in my state of south dakota, those are decisions they have to grapple with all the time. you don't always have the luxury of being able to just borrow more. most states don't allow that. my state of south dakota doesn't allow that. also certainly not in our states, probably very conducive to saying we're just going to raise taxes on people and on small businesses, which requires then that we've got to make hard decisions about spending. i would just through the chair ask my colleague from kansas if perhaps that might have been the way they went about dealing with their fiscal crisis in the past? mr. moran: mr. president, i thank the gentleman from south dakota and would indicate that, yes, kansas is one of those states, one of those 49 states, in our constitution we are
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prohibited in almost always living beyond our means. and it's been something that kansas legislature and governor has lived with you throughout the history of our state. the solution to the problem in kansas is not a cry for more revenue. it's a recognition that spending in difficult times has to be reduced. it's the restraint that we desperately need in washington, d.c. that's so common in state capitals and families and businesses across the country. and so, while i've always indicateed to kansans, while we have this debate every year about how to balance the revenues with expenditures and it's not an enjoyable debate, we are fortunate in kansas that we have to reach that conclusion, and it's something that we need in washington, d.c. for a long time the politics, the political talk in washington is that we're too likely to spend and tax.
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well, there's also a problem with spending and borrowing. and we are now suffering the consequence, and we are not immune from what we see in greece and italy and portugal and ireland. if we do not solve this problem that we face today in a responsible way, it will be solved for us by the markets, by those who we borrow money from determining we are no longer credit worthy. we don't have to worry so much about that in kansas because we have a constitutional provision that requires our legislature and governor to reach the right conclusion. and it's why i thought the debt ceiling was the opportunity for us to force ourselves, this debate on the debt ceiling was the opportunity for us to force ourselves to do the things that politicians don't always like to do. thank you, mr. president. mr. thune: mr. president, just to the point that the senator from kansas was making, he talked about higher interest rates and the impact of not dealing with the fiscal circumstance the country finds itself in. and you look at what's happening in europe.
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a three-year government bond interest rates are around 19.4% for portugal, 28.9% for greece and 12.9% for ireland. think about the impact in this country if we had interest rates go back to what is even a 20-year average, we would see an additional $5 trillion -- just about $5 trillion in additional borrowing costs in the next decade alone. that's if we went back to the 20-year historical average for this country. not to mention going to what they're looking at in countries like europe, at these 19%, 20% interest rates. think about auto loans, think about home loans, think about about student loans, think about about business loans, all those things that we rely on in our economy and that families across this country rely on in order to carry on their daily lives. if you were looking at those kinds of interest rates, that's the type of interest rate sensitivity that we have. and if we don't get our fiscal house in order, we could very well end up like many of these
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countries, and that would be devastating for our economy. the most important thing that we can be doing right now, mr. president -- and the senator from kansas pointed this out -- we need to put policies in place that actually grow the economy and create jobs. i also will support the cut, cap and balance proposal that's before the senate today because i think it does important things. it cuts spending today immediately. it caps spending in the near term and puts in place a process by which we balance the budget in the long term, a balanced budget amendment. it's interesting to note, if you go back historically, i want to read something for you, mr. president, that president ronald reagan said 29 years ago this week. he led a rally of thousands of people on the capitol steps calling for a balanced budget amendment. this is what he said -- and i quote -- "crisis is a much-abused word today, but can we deny we face a crisis?" end quote. that's 29 years ago at a time, mr. president, when the federal debt was $1 trillion.
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we face a debt 14 times as high, $14 trillion, and under the president's budget, would literally double in the next decade. we have got to get our fiscal house and our spending in order. the senator from kansas also mentioned the size of government as a percentage of our entire economy. if you go back to 1800, the formation, the early years of our country, 2% is what we spent on the federal government. 2% of our total economy. this year we're area over 24%, in that 24%-25% range. if you look at the historical average, it is about 26%, what we have spent as a percent of our entire commitment of it means we're spend spending more at the federal level and the private commie economy is shrink. we want to see an expansion of the private economy, where we put policies in place that enable our job creators to create jobs and we get the federal government smaller, not
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larger. when you are looking at a debt crisis like we are, you don't grow and expand the size of government, you make government smawmple you get the private economy growing and expanding and creating jobs much that is how you ultimately get out of the situation. well, we've got policies in place right now that are making it more difficult and more expensive for our small businesses to create jobs. anywhere you go in the country -- in my state of south dakota, elsewhere -- you talk to small business owners, you talk to farmers and ranchers, what they will tell you is the policies, regulations, taxes coming out of washington, d.c., make it more expensive and difficult for our job creators to create jobs. if you look at the data on that, it is pretty clear. since this president took office, we've got higher unemployment by about 18%. we've got more people unemployed than we did when he took office, we have a 35% higher debt, we saw spending go up in the last two years alone, up 24%. the number of people who are receiving food stamps is up by
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40%. all the data, all the tools by which we can measure economic progress and growth, demonstrate that the policies that have been put in place by this administration has been a complete failure what. we need, mr. president, is a change in policies. and it starts by capping federal spending -- or, cutting federal spending, capping it in the near term and putting in place a long-term solution, a balanced budget amendment like so many states have in place, like the senator from kansas mentioned that they have in his state of kansas, like we have in my state of south dakota, where our state governments have to live within our means. they can't spend money they do not v that is the problem we have in washington, d.c., today. in terms of our small businesses, there was a survey that was done by the chairman of commerce in which they found that 64% of the small businesses that responded to the survey satesaid that they're not goingo hire. 12% said they'll cut jobs. why? half of small businesses listed
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economic uncertainty as the main reason. they are concerned about what's going to cowment of washington, d.c., they don't know what the policies and regulations are that are going to be imposed on them and what it will do to their cost 6 doing business. as a consequence, they are hunkering down and trying to survive. we need to change that. we change that by getting federal spending under control. cut, cap, and balance is an important step that that process. i'm pleased that the house of representatives passed it, sent it over here. i would argue to my cleelings -- i would toorg my colleagues that this is the best thing we can doing to get our fiscal house in order and get it on a more us sin stable path going forward but also help get our economy going forward again and get jobs created. you can't do it by making government larger. if that was true, the stimulus bill that was passed last year would have brought unemployment down. we are facing 9.2% unemployment
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today. we see an economy growing at a very slow rate. we need to unleash that economy. and the way that we w. we do that is by cutting spending in washington, d.c., making federal government smaller, not larger, getting that amount of spending as a percentage of our entire economy back into a more historical norm, working to ensure that taxes and regulations stay low on our job creators in this country. that's why i fundamentally object to the -- what the president and many of his allies here in congress want to do with regard to the debt crisis, and that is increase revenues. you cannot -- you cannot create jobs in this country, you cannot grow the economy by increasing taxes on our job creators. i can't think of a single tax that you could on our economy that would actually create jobs t would make it more difficult to create jobs, more difficult for us to get out of this economic downturn. i hope my colleagues will support cut, cap, and balance
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understand that it will get a big vote in the senate and get this country back on a more sound fiscal setting and on a path to creating jobs. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 2055, which the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 2055, an act making a. ppropriations for military construction, the department of veterans affairs and related agencies for the fiscal year sendin ending septe, 2012, and for other purposes. mr. johnson: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. johnson: mr. president, i am hopeful that the senate will be able to complete action on the milcon-v.a. appropriations bill today. members have had ample opportunity to offer amendments.
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staff has been working to clear them, and i believe we now have a clear path to final passage. i would like to spend a few minutes today talking about the military construction portion of this bill, which is so important to our troops and their families. the bill includes $13.7 billion for milcon, which is $1 billion below the budget request. in th crafting this bill, we took a hard look at the projects submitted by the administration and made strategic reductions in order to make wise use of our milcon dollars without sacrificing key military priorities. i believe this bill is a prudent approach to addressing our military construction needs at home and abroad. the bill fully funds the administration's request of peds
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1.2 billion -- of $1.2 billion regarding reserve projects. congress usually adds funds for the guard and reserve projects but that option was not available to us this year. it is my hope that the services will acknowledge and address their chronic backlog of construction requirements for the guard and reserve forces in future budget requests. of note, this bill includes $550 million to construct or modify 15 department of defense schools at home and overseas. as "newsweek" pointed out last month, a shocking number of d.o.d. schools are crumbling and they need repair. the administration has made upgrading to these schools a
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priority, and the committee wholeheartedly supports that goal. d.o.d. school funding in this bill represents a significant down payment on the estimated $3.1 billion requirement for d.o.d. school recapitalization. the administration's request included funding for the move of marines from japan to guam. while the committee recognizes the need to restructure force posture in the pacific, we remain concerned about the cost of this plan and the lack of forward progress on the part of our japanese allies. the report accompanying this bill directs the navy to provide congress with the detailed information and the cost and prognosis of the guam relocation initiative. initially, the -- additionally,
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the committee is concerned with the potential cost of related troop realignments in korea and the long-term impact of troop reductions in europe. their report accompanying this bill addresses these concerns in depth. mr. president, as i said before, this is a sound and responsible bill. senators kirk and i have worked a hard hand in hand to forge a bipartisan approach for the milcon-v.a. bill and i believe we have succeeded. i urge my colleagues to support final passage of the bill today. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. mr. kirk: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. kirk: before we do that i want to join my colleague and say that the republicans unanimously supported this bill that provides appropriations for our veterans and for our military construction needs unanimously in the subcommittee.
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they supported this bill, our republican members unanimously supported this bill in the full committee. and the reason why is because this bill is a march to a budget -- its a marked to the house budget. this bill cuts spending on the budget authority discretionary side about $1.2 billion below the president's request. the bill also cuts spending $620 million below last year's level, and it even comes in $2.6 million below chairman culberson's bill that passed the house of representatives under their very strict budget guidelines. i will note that we came together on a bipartisan basis in the senate to bring this very first of the appropriations bills up, and the cloture motion to move forward to bring this bill to the floor passed by a vote of 71-26, which leader mcconnell and our
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vice-chairman, the lead republican on the committee, mr. cochran, supporting that. now, this bill has been endorsed by amvets, by the disabled american veterans, by the veterans of foreign wars, by the paralyzed veterans of america, and the iraq-afghanistan veterans of america. i think it's very important that as we look at the wider issue of deficits and debt, any danger of interrupting payments to veterans because of negotiations here on capitol hill, it is a very important signal that not just the house passed the appropriations bill to support our veterans but also the senate. and so my hope is that we will consider the amendments this afternoon and then advise members that we would seek to then g go to final passage and t this first of the appropriations bills done in year, sending a very strong message,tope our veterans and men and women on
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active duty that we're supporting their military construction and their veterans health care needs in a way that spends money according to the dictates of the house budget resolution. and with that, i yield back and -- and i wait for our senior member from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i ask for up to ten minutes to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. president. i take this time to point out the obvious, and that is we're 13 days away from august the 2nd, the date that secretary geithner that is indicated that if we do not raise the debt ceiling, america rungs the risk of defaulting on its debt and not paying our bills. i bring this up because this is an issue that we never should be this close to this deadline.
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it's been pointed out many times that the debt ceiles has very little -- creeling has very little to do with how much money we spend because we've already spent this money. the question is whether we're is going to pay our bills, whether the united states is going to live up to our obligations or whether we're going to default on our debt? the prospect of not making that deadline is basic lynn thinkable, that the -- is basically unthinkable, that the united states would give up its preeminent position internationally. it would have an effect on everyone in this nation. we already have heard from the rating houses. last week both standard & poor's and moody's investor services warned that they are considering downgrading the country's credit rating if the debt ceiling is not raised. a smaller if firm, egan jones' ratings has already downgraded u.s. securities. now, what happens if we get the
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major rating houses saying that we're no longer aaa bond rated? well, it will have an immediate effect on the cost to the taxpayers of this country. it will cost us more to borrow. that means we will have to pay higher taxes in order to pay the interest on the national debt. it will affect all credit in this country. it's estimated that the typical homeowner will pay an extra $1 no$1,000 a year on mortgage cos. the average credit cardholder will pay an extra $2 50 a year in credit card interest. in other words, the interest rates of the federal treasury notes affect the entire interest rates in this nation. all of us will pay more. it will cost jobs. it will cost us in our retirement savings. it will affect each one of us. and yesterday the people of maryland found out another way that the failure to increase the debt ceil willing have on
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maryland taxpayers. and that is the rating houses have indicated that if the federal sacred jeopardized, the state of maryland's aaa bond rate something in jeopardy. why? because maryland depends, as most states, upon the federal government. in maryland, governor owe mallly, as the presiding officer knows when he was governor of west virginia, you manage the your state well and the credit rating that you deserved were based upon what you did in your state. that's true in maryland. but marylanders will find that their credit costs will go up if we don't increase the debt ceilinceilby august -- the debt krelg by august 2. we're all in this. yes, do i hope that we use this as an opportunity to get our spending and our budget in order. we need to manage our deficit. we all understand that. we've got to bring our debt
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under proper management. i've taken the floor before to sort of go over how we got here, and i'm not going to do that today. but i am here to tell you that the democrats in the senate, under senator conrad, have come in with a proposal that we think is well-balanced, that has more deficit reduction, quite frankly, than any other plan that's out there, that it's comprehensive and it will allow us to be able to continue to grow our economy, because the best thing we can do for our deficit is to create more jobs in this country. and the conrad democratic budget does that by investing in education, by investing in innovation and in infrastructure. but also recognizing that we have to bring the deficit under control. it protects medicare and medicaid because we know those programs are important for our seniors, important for our economy. so we protect high-priority programs, more deficit reduction by having a balanced approach. that's what we should do in addition to raising the debt
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ceiling. we should have a comprehensive approach. let me just give you some of the numbers of what the conrad budget does. it brings spending down to 22%. i heard some of my colleagues talk about the historical averages. 22% of our economy would be the same spending amount on average as we had when ronald reagan was president. i think most would agree that the reagan years were certainly conservative years on government spending. that would bring it down to that percentage, despite the demographic changes in this country. i think that's quite a significant accomplishment. the revenues would be equal to what the revenues were as a percentage of our economy when bill clinton was president of the united states in which we had the strongest economic growth in modern history. the greatest job growth in modern history. so these are responsible programs. it also, by the way, says to our government workers, who should not be used as scapegoats for doing incredible work under difficult circumstance, asked to do more with less, they have
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already made the sacrifice with a two-year pay freeze, the conrad democratic budget says enough is enough and doesn't ask our federal workers to make additional sacrifices beyond the two-year pay freeze that they have already been subjected to. i know there's other efforts here, and i hope we'll continue those efforts. i've talked before about the bowles-simpson approach. we have a bipartisan group working. that's how we should proceed. quite frankly, mr. president, this cut, cap, and balance is not a bipartisan effort. it is an extreme effort by republicans to bring forward a budget that is even more severe and more radical than the ryan budget. i call it cut, cap and kill twhe comes to medicare. why do i say that? i've taken the floor in regards to the republican ryan budget to point out that the impact on the medicare system would be to increase the costs on average to our seniors twhe's full threu -- when it's fully implemented of
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an additional $6,500 of costs to our seniors to pay for health care. mr. president, i know you've been through west virginia, i've been there maryland, and i tell you our seniors are already paying too much for health care. they can't afford another $6,500 a year to pay for their health care bills. we should look at reducing their costs, not increasing it. but the cut, cap, and balance would go even beyond that. it's estimated there would be another $2,500 in costs on top of the $6,500 or $9,000 in additional costs when fully implemented. that's cut, cap and kill medicare, and i don't think anyone of us wants to be responsible for that. i heard my colleague talk about job growth. we are all for job growth. the cut, cap, and balance costs us hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs. why do we say that? well, the objective here is not very subtle. the objective, as the heritage foundation has said, and this
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just was sent out, this will cut the size of the federal government by about half within 25 years. are we going to tell our students they can do without half of their pell grants? yesterday i joined students from around the nation and presidents of colleges to talk about the importance of the pell grant. at morgan state university in maryland and the university of maryland eastern shore, both historically black colleges and universities in which 80% of the body is made up of minority students, 50% depend on pell grants. half of that number could not be there without pell grants. and now we're saying it's okay to cut the pell grants in half? no, it's not okay. are we going to tell our seniors we're going to cut social security in half? are we going to tell those people that need unemployment insurance they're going to get 50%? it's not sustainable.
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i heard my colleagues talk about predict ability. the cut, cap, and balance is not going to be sustained. it's a radical approach. we can do better. quite frankly, david brooks, the conservative columnist, said it best. i quote what he said about where republicans particularly in the house are trying to lead this nation. david brooks wrote, and i quote the republican party may no longer be a normal party. over the past few years it has been infected by a faction that is more a psychological protest than a practical governing alternative. the members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. if you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they say no. if you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no. end quote from david brooks, the conservative columnist. we need to have the system work. we need democrats and
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republicans working together. we need a budget plan that's predictable, that gets our budget under control, that allows america to create the jobs that we need and invest in education, innovation and infrastructure so america can continue to lead the world in economic growth. that's what we need to do. it starts by raising the debt limit so america does not default on its obligations. and for us to work in a bipartisan manner to develop a budget plan that gets the debt under control but allows america to live up to its commitments to our seniors, to our students and to create the job opportunities for tomorrow. that's what we need to do, and that's what this senator is prepared to do. and with that, madam president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: officer: the
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senator from wyoming.
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mr. barrasso: madam president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. madam president, wish to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. madam president, our country is two weeks away from a deadline date and this deadline is approaching because of washington's constant inaction. now, to me, this deadline has to do with our national debt. now, the president, on the other hand, says it has to do with our debt limit, the amount of money that we are allowed by law to borrow. i believe it has to do with the amount of money we have already borrowed and the amount of money they want to continue to borrow. i believe as americans we can do better. i believe as americans we must do better. our country needs for us to act.
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you know, the president has repeatedly said that we have to deal with this issue now. last week he asked the most fundamental question. he said, "if not now, when?" the clock is ticking. we got a wake-up call from medicare not too long ago and we find out it will be bankrupt five years sooner than they initially thought, just over a decade from now. you know, as a doctor who's practiced medicine a long time, i will tell you we have to strengthen medicare. we know that in 25 years, the same will happen to social security. now, unlike our debt limit which congress can legislate away, strengthening medicare, saving social security, that can't simply be legislated away. we have to act now to prevent these programs from failing not just people on those programs today but also future generations. you know, the president has observed that we are in the 11th hour when it comes to our
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debt ceiling, and the only clear path to raise the debt ceiling that has passed either house of congress is the proposal that passed the house of representatives last night, the cut, cap, and balance act. this act would only raise the debt ceiling if we put our country on the fast-track back to fiscal sanity. and that's where we need to be, on the track to fiscal sanity. it is an approach that the american people will tell you we need now more than ever. our creditors are getting restive. this week the fitch credit ratings warned that if the united states doesn't take action to avoid default, we could lose our triple-a credit rating. standard & poor's has already warned that unless we cut our budget, our credit rating could be at risk. wasteful washington spending has already saddled our children
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with over $14 trillion of debt. if we default, this spending may also force them to pay punishi punishingly high interest rates that will drain american dollars from our already sluggish economy. madam president, i believe we will not default. you know, we're already paying $6,000 -- $6,000 a soaked interest alone on -- a second on interest alone on our debt. for those of us with children, we know what this impact is going to be on them years and years into the future. well, the cut, cap and balance act would put us on the path to resolving the issue by cutting spending immediately, by capping spending in the future, and by forcing, finally forcing washington to live within its means. you know, this is the sort of law that the country needs and that the president should actually welcome.
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but what has the president done? well, he's threatened to veto this law he said if it crosses his desk. the president has threatened to veto the only plan that actually solves the problem that has passed either house of congress. why? well, the administration emphasizes public opinion as their reason for o opposing the hard choices required by our debt crisis. but yet the president said they're opposed to a balanced budget constitutional amendment. well, in a recent mason-dixon poll, 65% of americans say they support a balanced budget constitutional amendment, so where is that respect that the president talks about for public opinion? finally, the administration has hidden behind catch phrases rather than debate the merits of cut and cap and balance. they referred to it as a different name.
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well, when i hear the white house spokesman talk about cut, cap and balance in a different way, i say how is ducking the issue to confront both our spending problem and the debt ceiling head-on, how -- we -- that's not ducking the issue. that's facing the issue. when the president's spokesman talks about dodging the issue, i will say, how is it a dodge to support commonsense solutions to our spending addiction like a balanced budget amendment? and then he used the phrase about disimagined dismantling, and i say how does stopping our country from going bankrupt count as dismantling? the white house has even admitted that they don't have a plan. you know what, they don't think they need one. is that astonishing? the white house, the united states most powerful country in the world, the white house doesn't think they need a plan at the 11th hour? the white house press secretary just recently said, leadership is not proposing a plan for the sake of having it voted up or down and likely voted down.
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the budget that was brought to this floor, the president's budget failed 0-97. not one republican voted for it, not one democrat voted for it -- no one voted for what the president had proposed. no one of either party. perhaps the president ought to propose something new. holding our country hostage to irresponsible washington spending while trying to hit the economy with tax hikes isn't leadership. it's denying the reality. refusing to put forward a plan to resolve our spending crisis isn't leadership. it's deferring to consequences. making the economy worse, the way this administration has done for the past two years, isn't leadership and it is hurting our country. the president's policies have made it worse, made the economy worse, made health care worse,
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made energy availability worse, housing worse. the policies have made it worse. this administration can accuse cut, cap and balance of ducking and they can accuse it of dodging and they can accus accut of dismantling, but the strategy coming out of the white house seems to be duck and cover. that's what we're seeing. anyone who knows the math knows that this strategy was never acceptable before and it is doubly unacceptable now. the amount of debt that we owe right now today is so high that it is hurting employment at ho home. experts tell us that our debt is costing us millions of jobs -- a million jobs. spending like this makes it harder for the private sector to create new jobs, and the unemployment numbers that just came out show us at 9.2% unemployment. with that kind of unemployment, energy prices high, people noticing it in the quality of their life, it's harder for american families to buy gas, buy groceries, buy cars, homes,
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pay tuition for their kids to go to college. and it's harder to create jobs for those kids who will be graduating this year and next year and every year until we get the spending under control. and debt isn't just a disaster for the distant future. our debt is irresponsible. our debt is unsustainable. and, you know, even our military leaders have condemned it. admiral mike mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has said the biggest threat to our national security is our debt. the debt is the threat. it is not our enemies who are defeating us. it is our spending that is hurting us so very much. and it is time for america to fight back. that's why i am supporting and have cosponsored cut, cap and balance and will vote for it on the floor of the united states senate. this piece of legislation takes commonsense steps to get our
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country out of debt. it will immediately reduce spending by over $100 billion as a down payment on our children's future. it will place a hard cap on spending so that it never reaches the unsustainable heights of the past two years again. it will send a balanced budget constitutional amendment to the american people for ratificati ratification. and it will prevent us from defaulting on our debt. passing this law is the kind of leadership that america deserves. and the president wants to show he understands leadership, he should retract his veto threat and support this approach. and i absolutely will support it when it comes to this body. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise to -- the presiding officer: we are in a quorum call. mr. vitter: excuse me, madam president. i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: thank you. and now, madam president, i rise to ask support, bipartisan support for the vitter amendment which we will be voting on at 12:00 noon. this amendment is very simple, it's very straightforward, but i think it's important and makes a central point. the amendment says that these funds in this bill will not be spent unless and until we have a
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2012 budget, unless we start with first things first and decide what the overall budget framework is and then move forward with spending with appropriation bills consistent with that budget, and that's all it says. simple, straightforward point but an important point. madam president, folks around america, including in the market, are scratching their heads. they look at washington, they look at us, they look at congress and the president and see almost complete dysfunction and this complete lack of a budget, even lack of an attempt to get a budget in place is a glaring, maybe the top example of that. now, this isn't just a good commonsense idea, something every family does, something every small business does. this also happens to be required
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by federal law. as you know, madam president, the federal budget act mandates that we pass a budget by april 15 of every year. we haven't done that. the house passed a budget. the senate, quite frankly, has not even tried. the senate budget committee has not even met to begin to do that in regular order through the normal process. in fact, madam president, it's worse than that. the senate didn't even try to do that last year under the same current leadership, and so we're now over 800 days and counting that the senate under this leadership has not even tried to comply with federal law and adopt a budget. so again, madam president, my amendment is very simple. it says first things first. we need a budget so that any
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appropriation bill, any spending is only done consistent with and in the context of that budget. that's the right way to do things. that's the right way to run a railroad. that's what every louisiana family does in setting its plans. that's what every louisiana business does in setting its plans, and that's what the american people and the markets want from us. madam president, the last few weeks has been great discussion about moody's and standard and poor's and threats to downgrade their grade on u.s. treasury notes and our debt, and what they have been saying is loud and clear. it's not a pure focus on the debt ceiling. it's an even more important focus as well on the underlying issue of spending and debt. they had been saying what every economist also says. we're on a completely
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unsustainable path in terms of spending and debt, and they want to see a real change in that, the start of a real change adding up to at least least $4 trillion of deficit reduction. we need to do that, and step one to doing that, step one to coping is to have a budget. you can't begin to do that without a budget plan, without an outline, and again that goes to the core, the simple, fundamental, straightforward but important point of this vitter amendment. i urge my colleagues to put first things first. i urge my colleagues to say we need to start doing our business, starting with a 2012 budget. thank you, madam president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. durbin: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i ask consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: i have nine quack quack requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you, madam president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. kirk: i ask consent to vitiate the quorum and be recognized. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kirk: we are wrapping up to a vote that we hope will occur on senator vitter's amendment at noon. i would just like to summarize where we are. we are completing debate on the bill that provides funding for the veterans administration and our military construction needs. this is the bill that backs up over 22 million veterans who served our country. the reason why i and the republicans on the appropriations committee unanimously supported this bill is it is marked to the house budget resolution, the paul-ryan budget resolution number. we cut funding by $1.2 billion in budget authority discretionary numbers below the president's level. this bill comes in $620 million below the 2011 enacted level.
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it's even .6 million below the house-passed level just adopted, chairman culberson's bill in the house of representatives earlier this year. now, the senate voted by a vote of 71-26 for cloture to bring this bill up. this is the first of the working appropriations bills. i hope there are many others. the legislation i think is important. people may ask the question how did we make the funding cuts to come in at the house level, and the answer is that chairman johnson and i made some difficult decisions. we cut 24 separate military construction programs. a list is available in the report that accompanies this bill. we made some very tough calls regarding spending that was proposed for bahrain, for germany and for korea. there was a worthwhile project proposed for the court of
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veterans' appeals. they wanted a brand-new building and a courtroom. that was denied outright. those tough decisions, those 24 reductions denying a new court of veterans' appeals building, making those cuts necessary then brought us under the house level as approved by the paul-ryan budget. i will just remind members the legislation is now endorsed by the v.f.w., am-vets, disabled american veterans, the paralyzed veterans of america and the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america. it had the unanimous support of republicans in the subcommittee and in the full committee, and because it comes in at the house budget level, that's why i think it's necessary to move forward, especially as we talk about a budget crisis in which checks may or may not go out. i very much hope they do. i think it's an important signal for the senate to send, that a
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paul-ryan approved budget number, which is what this bill is at, goes forward that ensures 2012 appropriated funding for our veterans and the military construction needs of our men and women in uniform. with that, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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